Our church family is currently going through through the book of Philippians… which for me means I get to spend time doing a few of my favorite things: lots of reading, researching, studying, & listening. In all of it, I’m finding myself really intrigued, captivated even, by the unfolding theme & message of Philippians.
The context of the letter is that it’s author, Paul, is writing to a church in a place called Philippi, a church that he helped to start. (Check THIS out for some background on it.)
The letter is sent to the Philippians while he’s in prison – in Rome, awaiting trial for his unswerving commitment to the declaration of the good news that people can have relationship with God & forgiveness of sins through the death & resurrection of Christ Jesus – he was specially commsioned to take this message to the Gentiles, something that really fired up some of the Jewish religious leaders… so much so that Paul was forced to defend himself in a Roman court of law.
One of the things that ‘gets’ me is that even though he’s in prison, it doesn’t seem to phase him. As a matter of fact, the main theme that keeps popping up throughout Philippians is Joy. And Rejoicing. And being joyful.
Prison seems like a worst-case scenario to me; the kind of circumstance that would naturally lead one to use all their energy, effort, & focus to try to get OUT. Instead, Paul writes that he is rejoicing at his circumstances… because being in prison served to have the good news/gospel message advanced throughout the whole imperial guard, & to all the other prisoners.
Further, other Christ-followers were able to observe his clear, consistent, & faithful example in the face of suffering, shame, & the unknown… & from it were encouraged to tell of this good news, to speak God’s Word, without fear.
That’s why Paul rejoices. The gospel is being lived & declared, even in prison.
I’m confronted by my own fears… wondering at my own life-circumstances. What would I be focusing on if I were in Paul’s shoes? (Sandals?) Makes me think of the difficulties & messes I’ve been in, where the only thing on my mind was crying out for God’s help & deliverance… and it seemed that my only declarations centered around the theme, “GET ME OUT OF HERE!”
Paul reminds me that even in the middle of a bad situation (& prison is BAD,) God is still at work in my life. He’s never left me, never abandoned me. Even more, He’s right there with me in the middle of my trouble. And somehow, someway, He can & does manage to turn the situation for His glory. Somehow Paul sees that; & its not that he doesn’t want out of prison, (he does!) he just wants God’s purposes & plans in, through, & around his life more.